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KaiWalk

How to learn your still?

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So here's my issue.  The previous owner was losing money and went out of business.  New partners came in, bought the building, attached brewery and very small distillery with this oversized still (for the space allocated to distilling). 

I've interned at a few places that have similar equipment, however all of those had automation.  I could look at temps in various parts of the process and make adjustments accordingly.  This beauty is 100% manual. E.g. If temps are too high at the one thermometer on the columns (between last plate & dephleg 1) the only change I can make are hand turns of valves in back.  

My current plan is to run a cheap wash next week and learn by doing, slow and low. 

Suggestions? 

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I would suggest finding someone reasonably close to you who makes the same types of products and runs the same model still. You'll probably still need to run a sacrificial wash or two to fine tune your process but you can probably save yourself some time finding someone reasonably local who will give you some tips.

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Safety is primary, know what each knob does before you turn it on.

Contact the manufacturer, explain your situation, see if you can get manual/diagrams/other documentation/training. Write your turn on/off process before your first run. If you don't know what something does it could be the thing that causes the still to go boom. 

And also do what County Seat said. AH stills are common enough that you should be able to find someone not to far away to help show you the ropes. 

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Where are you located?

In addition to what's said about: Putting in simple flow meters for the depleg and condenser controls can be very helpful in roughing out how manual controls need to be set. Similarly putting a hash mark on a dial and affixing a print-out clockface or compass rose behind can be helpful in aligning your 'turn to 2'oclock' compared to other staff. Even if you plan to be grain-to-glass, buy a 55 gal drum of gns and do several practice runs with it until you can reliably hit your target proofs and understand the cooling needs and settings for the column (the gns could be used for sanitizer/cleaning/etc afterwards).  

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Thx for the feedback all.

CountySeat: there's one other distiller in town who's coming by Thursday.

ForeShot: Yeah, AH has actually not been very helpful. Previous ownership owed everyone in the world money when he folded, so I'm getting very slow responses, or straight refusals to work with us. We didn't do enough to change the name so potential vendors are thinking we're the same company. Slowly, I have them coming around though.

JustAndy: Billings MT. Luckily, I have a finance degree which basically means, I love crunching numbers and replicating results. I will track every knob & resultant change, one at a time. Re: getting a drum of GNS, the govt shutdown hit just as we were setting up online TTB access so we're at the back of the line for all of our label approvals and I haven't done a transfer in bond form to even buy GNS yet. I'll be learning quickly though. 

I'm brewing a basic bourbon/moonshine batch 1: to test my recipe & gravity #'s & 2: I know that I can start with 100% flow rates on everything and work down to try and find 155-160P range. And if I screw it up (when I do), load it back up, water it down and do it all over again.

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